BLOG ESPANA
Sunday October 13 2013
Decision time nears for Del Bosque

Spain can virtually book their ticket to Brazil next summer, and now the attention turns to the battle for a place in La Roja's elite squad, Olly Dawes writes

Spain are on the verge of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Belarus, barring a major disaster against Georgia on Tuesday.

Goals from Xavi and Alvaro Negredo – who continues to score goals on both domestic and international levels – secured a win for Vicente del Bosque's side, leaving them top of Group I with 17 points, three clear of France.

Gaining a victory was the most important thing for La Roja on Friday night, but the performance wasn't of the usual standard you expect from the reigning world and European champions, and one of their goalscorers concurred.

'It wasn't easy. We weren't very crisp with our final passes, but we got the win and took an important step toward the World Cup,' said Xavi.

With just a point needed from their game with Georgia, the Coach can now look towards next summer, with a number of positions up for grabs as his side look to win their fourth major tournament in a row.

Competition for places is high - meaning regular big names such as David Villa, Fernando Torres, Carles Puyol and possibly even Xabi Alonso – who is recovering from a broken metatarsal – could miss out on a place in the squad.

The emergence of defender Inigo Martinez is a welcome boost for del Bosque, as the Real Sociedad star now provides some depth at the centre back position, reducing the damage done by Puyol's injury problems, whilst Sevilla left back Alberto Moreno will now compete with Nacho Monreal for a place in the squad.

In midfield, Isco and Koke are capitalising on their performances at the European Under-21 Championships by staking claims to make the final World Cup squad, though Javi Martinez and Thiago and will hope for strong seasons with Bayern Munich as they look to feature in a packed midfield.

The battle for a place up front has intensified with the news of Diego Costa's impending call up, and the Atletico Madrid hitman will now compete with Villa, Torres, Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Michu and Fernando Llorente for a role under del Bosque, but having gone through the trouble to make him available for selection, it's hard to imagine Costa not featuring next summer – barring injury.

There are still a number of questions over the Spanish side after Brazil dismantled them in the Confederations Cup final, with calls for new, younger blood to be introduced. With the qualifying rounds almost navigated without defeat, del Bosque could even afford to test some of his other youngsters – such as Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata and Dani Carvajal, or Manchester United's David De Gea – in friendly matches over the coming months.

The 'Golden Generation' of Spanish football is still very much alive and kicking, and with another crop of talented youngsters staking claims for a place in the senior squad, del Bosque has an enviable array of stars at his disposable – making Spain one of the favourites to lift the World Cup once again.

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